Thursday September 25, 2003
Twins Turnaround and Why Hate the White Sox?
Today, we’ve got the results of our most recent Discussion Question(s) of the Week. For the first time, I decided we should have a two question week. With the season wrapping up, and so much going on, it was only fair. I think both questions proved quite interesting, and I received more e-mails in the last couple of days than ever before. Let’s get right to it then, here are your responses to this week’s questions. (Note - from time to time, I will react to the e-mails with SETH’S THOUGHTS.)
Question #1 -
The Twins have the best record in baseball since the All-Star Game. Why? Is it because of the Shannon Stewart trade? Is it because Johan Santana was put into the starting rotation? Is it the lineup change (Rivas to #2, Mientkiewicz to #3 and Guzman to #9)? Or, is it something else? What do you think?
From Tim G. -
The Twins have the best record in baseball since the All-Star Game. Why?
Good question with no real clear answer, but one of an amalgam of factors, one of personality, chemistry, catalysts & symbiosis, one of examples, timing, disgust & coincidence.
The Twins went into the break completely disgusted with themselves. They took a break, went fishing & golfing, hung out with friends & family and forgot about baseball for a couple of days. Came back fresh & played hard. After all, it could not have gotten any worse than those last 6 weeks.
Chemistry & Personality:
I think that it is, obviously, impossible to ignore the precipitated affect that came with Shannon Stewart. Stewart mixes well with the Twins, he is a solid veteran player without the trappings of a prima-dona. I believe that a big part of his fantastic play since arriving is the fact that he was finally playing on a team that just may not be watching the playoffs in their rumpus rooms.
Acquired during the much needed all star break, the trade in itself made an impression on the clubhouse, Twins management was willing to do something to help a ball club that they believed was better than what had been seen for the 30+ games preceding the break.
Again, Stewart. He set an example in the lead off position with continually excellent plate appearances. He allowed the bench to get an idea of what sort of pitches they might see for the rest of the night.
Precipitation & Symbiosis:
Stewart is a lead off hitter, the lineup required some re-planting as a result. So, Gardenhire planted Stewart as the #1 guy, transplanted Jones, Guzman, Rivas, etc ... to more fertile and appropriate positions in the line up. Lo & Behold! it bore fruit immediately.
Coincidence & (more) Timing:
I think that it can be safely argued that the post all star schedule was less difficult than the 'first half' ... albeit, 'arguably'.
All in all it is difficult to say exactly why they have done so well, but if I had to put it into one sentence it would say ... The acquisition of Stewart added a spark to a team that frequently wins on heart as much as it does talent & Stewart helped greatly in sparking both the talent & the intangible that is 'heart".
(SETH’S THOUGHTS - Some of those words are way too big for me to even try to argue against, so I’ll just nod and agree. Also, I don’t want to discuss ‘fertility’ and bearing ‘fruit’ here. It’s all so deep.)
From Leslie M. -
The Twins have the best record in the league because the pitching and hitting clicked at the same time. The starters have pitched well especially Johan and the relievers have been lights out. I can't say enough about the job Latroy and Eddie have done. Those two have just closed the door without getting hit in the last two months. The hitters started performing at the same time the pitchers were starting to perform.
From Will Young, Will's World -
The biggest change between the Twins of the first half and second half has been the starting pitching. As much as I love Shannon Stewart (he's my brother's favorite player), the Twins have been getting quality starts over half the time. Not only have these starts been quality (6 innings, 3 earned runs or less), but they have frequently been exceptional in that the pitchers have gone at least 7 innings. The reason this has been so helpful is that it eliminates the shoddy work of the middle relief (J.C. Romero) while bringing the game directly to the Hawk and then Eddie Guardado. That formula is a recipe for success and has been followed very well in the second half.
From David Bloom, D-Rays Blog-
What’s your take on the Kielty for Stewart trade now that the Twins clinched? Was the trade helpful in the Twins surge to take over the Central from Royals/Sox? I remember reading (forget where) when the trade was made that the players were very similar, just Kielty was younger and made less money.
2003 Twins (63 Games/265AB): 325 AVG, 387 OBP, 475 SLG, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 86 H, 25 BB, 3 SB
2003 Blue Jays (57 Games/175AB): 234 AVG, 346 OBP, 371 SLG, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 41 H, 28 BB, 2 SB
(SETH’S THOUGHTS -
Let me start with that question. Yes, initially I was 100% against the Shannon Stewart acquisition. I thought (and still think) that Ron Gardenhire never used Kielty (and others) the way he should have been. However, with the numbers you present, it’s impossible to argue that FOR THIS YEAR, it was a great trade for the Twins. That said, if the Twins lose Stewart after this season, it isn’t such a great deal. The Blue Jays have coveted Kielty for a long time. He’s their type of player. The things they appreciate in a player are lost on Ron Gardenhire. But remember, the Twins have a plethora of RF options, and it’s always important to win now if you can, so both sides of that trade could be argued.
Stewart not only hit, but he was the first true leadoff hitter the Twins have had since Chuck Knoblauch was traded. He takes pitches and generally just has great at bats. His presence at the top of the order was significant to the team. Yes, it allowed free-swinging Jacque Jones to drop into an RBI position. Doug Mientkiewicz took off once he moved into the 3rd spot in the order. Luis Rivas had far better at bats and success in the 2nd spot. Cristian Guzman seemed to relax in the 9th spot. All that happened, but it wasn’t the offense that was the biggest difference in my mind.
The big difference was the starting rotation! Brad Radke finally pitched like an “ace”, and has just been better each month. Johan Santana’s insertion into the starting rotation also was huge. The team just felt that whenever he was on the mound, they had a chance to win. He is probably the real “ace.” Kyle Lohse had a rough stretch for a month around the All-Star break, but has also come around and been great the last couple of months. Kenny Rogers record may not be great, but he was usually solid and usually kept the team in the game.
It’s mentioned that Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins also were part of the change in the 2nd half. I disagree, only because they (at least Hawkins!) was fantastic all year. The key was the starters giving those quality starts, going 7 innings and allowing the game to go directly from the starter to Hawkins and Guardado.
Ron Gardenhire has been bashed a lot, including frequently by me. I will never understand many of his game-time decisions and some of his player personnel decisions. However, it is clear that the players in the clubhouse love playing for him, and maybe that’s as important in a long season as the X’s and O’s, or whether to hit-and-run or bunt.
As I mentioned yesterday, a 162 game schedule is grueling. There will be ups and downs. The important thing for the Twins and their fans is that they did what they had to do. They won the division. Now, they go on to play the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. Hey, it’s a 5-game series, anything can happen. Next week, before the series starts, I’ll be sure to analyze the series and make some predictions.)
Question #2 -
Why do we hate the White Sox so bad? Michael Labuda of ChiSox Daily asked the question yesterday, and it made me try to remember the reasons. Here is what he wrote:
I never really understood why the White Sox generate so much hostility. Last week, in about his tenth post in a row dancing on the Sox's grave, Gleeman made comments about how cocky and arrogant the Sox were. I guess he’s talking about Ray Durham’s comments – last year. Uh, well, he’s no longer on the team. Or maybe he’s mad because Billy Koch said the Twins got some lucky bounces last season. Hardly cocky and arrogant stuff.
Anyway, I went to the game Friday night and had a good time. The Sox won, and its fun to watch them play when their hitting well. As for this club being cocky and arrogant, that’s not a very apt description. Konerko’s a good guy. Magglio says less than ten words a season. Lee seems to have a good time playing. Thomas can be difficult, but I’ve never seen him disrespect other teams. Manuel’s nickname is “Gandhi” for crying out loud… If anything, the Sox lacked confidence against the Twins and were too deferential. I think they could of used some arrogance. So where does the hostility come from? Is Hawk that annoying?
Well, let’s answer that question for Mr. Labuda, so he can understand why we, as Twins fans in general, dislike the White Sox so much. To be perfectly honest, I really can’t remember, and what Michael wrote sounds pretty accurate to me! Durham doesn’t play for them and Koch, although controversial in his comments, isn’t good enough to worry about what he thinks. E-mail me with “Why We Hate the White Sox?”
And, here are your responses:
From Greg S. -
Mr. Labuda sums it up at the end of his quote: Yes, Hawk *is* just that annoying. Sure, hometown broadcasters should be homers to an extent, but there's a line, and he crosses it. Maybe other regional play-by-players are as (or more) obnoxious, but we're blissfully ignorant of them, not being featured on a basic-cable staple across most of the country.
From Tim G. -
This is a hot one, you might as well ask what Vikings fans have against the Packers? First, I think that it is a rivalry, this makes it easy for fans to start thumbing their noses at the smallest detail & burble in the press or on television.
As a Twins fan, one to a ludicrous degree, I have to say that the Sox bug me in a manner which may be 15% Sox players' comments & 85% the media that covers & promotes them.
Yes, Hawk is 'that' annoying. His little trademark calls (we all know them, so I will spare you the misery) & with his compliments wrapped in thinly veiled underhanded insults. Things like "Radke is looking good tonight, maybe he is on one of his better streaks. Because over the last few years Radke has had a lot of really bad months." Clinically, his announcing would be diagnosed as passive aggressive.
The rest of the 'sour grapes' media coverage from the 'south side'. After the Sox win a matchup, it is rendered 'as expected'. If the Sox don't win, it is just that ... not so much that the Sox were beaten by the Twins, but rather the Sox failed to win. It's as if they would rather portray themselves as sad sack losers that screwed up than a team that got out-played the night before. As Dougie put it "they're dysfunctional down there".
To do a little bit of compare/contrast ... the prior Twins nemesis, the Cleveland Indians ... in 2001 when the Twins were (initially) playing phenomenal ball I caught an interview with Jim Thome. He was asked a question to the effect of "how come you guys aren't leading the division over those snotty little upstarts from Minnesota?" Thome stopped the reporter in his tracks "hey, those guys are playing some pretty darn good baseball, they don't have that record by accident. The Twins are a good ballclub."
(The 2001 Indian caveat though, I must admit, is that Omar Vizquel was quoted a'la Nikita Khrushchev "we will bury the Twins" ... but, at least, they did.)
Back to the Sox ... For the previous two seasons there are just little things like "I will never admit that they are a better team than we are." despite having had there <edit> handed to them on a plate. Whether that came from a player who is still on the team or not, there has not been much out of that clubhouse to eradicate or to negate that lingering notion.
As a Twins fan was I afraid of the Sox coming into the season? absolutely, but at least I (and much of the Twins media) was willing to admit that the arrival of Colon was a major addition to a formidable team ... from the Sox media, I read/saw/heard nothing of the kind when they looked at the division title holders here in (Blyleven here) Minn -e- sota.
(Tim then sent me the below quote which came from a contributor to the Dickie Thon Twins Fan Forum. It’s a quote from Frank Thomas, followed by a quote from Yankees SS Derek Jeter.)
"If we were able to spend
$150 million or $130 million, we'd win every year, too," Thomas said.
..."Money doesn't guarantee you'll have big performances down the stretch when it counts," [Derek] Jeter said. "You can have all the money in the world and it doesn't matter if you don't have people who are going to play well. That's an easy out. Money, money, money. Go ask him why Minnesota is where they are."
(SETH’S THOUGHTS - Tim, I appreciate you bringing up the Blyleven Minn-e-sota thing. White Sox announcers Hawk and DJ are definitely homers, but it would be wrong to say that Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven aren’t! The fact that they don’t have catch-phrases is the only difference. I think part of Minnesotan’s dislike of “Hawk” Harrelson originated when Kent Hrbek took exception to his “Grab some bench” statement. My thought, who cares? Hawk was hired by WGN and must be doing something right to keep his job. Also, this appears to be a good place to note a couple of things about Bert Blyleven that annoy me, maybe they get to you too.
1.) His continuous grammatical errors involving the distinction between “good” and “well.”
2.) How he says “Inner half of the plate” or “Outer half of the plate”. Sometimes there are pitches that almost hit the batter that Blyleven calls on the “inner half of the plate.” Yeah, that’s like saying that “Hawaii is on the Western half of the contiguous states.”
3.) It’s Bru-Sard, Bert. Not Bru-Shard.
4.) It’s Chicago, Bert. Not She-cago!
5.) Shigetoshi Hasegawa is just a name!
Let me know if I’m missing some. One more thing. Jim Thome is all about class. He treated the Twins players very well. Same thing can be said about Derek Jeter!)
From Leslie M. -
Why do I hate the White Sox? I have lot of reasons. For one thing, they are a big-market team and I don't like big-market teams getting so much advantages. Second, I hate their fans. They are nothing more than hoodlums. They attack players and coaches on the field like the incident with the ump or attacking Tom Gamboa or fan throwing a beer at Rocco Baldelli. Why should they be rewarded for stupidity? Third, White Sox got lot of players talking smack from Jose Valentin to Buehrle to Colon to Wunsch to the entire team. They were talking about how they would sweep the Twins or how the Twins are not in the same stratosphere with the White Sox. They always had lot of disrespect for the Twins. Heck, when the White Sox swept the Royals in a series at KC, the White Sox were talking about how this was their time to shine without any sort of respect for the Twins. White Sox get too much publicity on ESPN in which their highlights get more than the Twins highlights. I am sick and tired of Baseball Tonight kissing up to the White Sox this summer.
(SETH’S THOUGHTS - First, let’s not forget that the White Sox payroll was actually less than the Twins this year, even if they are a big-market team. Second, they are not All “hoodlums”. The individuals that did those things were just that, individuals. I’m sure they don’t represent true White Sox fans. And, I completely agree that there is an East Coast bias in the media, especially in sports. I understand that, and have just learned to accept it, even if it is frustrating. Chicago isn’t on the west coast either, but they still show up on highlights before the Twins.)
From Will Young-
I despise the White Sox for their loose lips from several years ago. Granted, Ray Durham and some of the other antagonists from that era are no longer with the team, but their shoes are ably filled with the likes of Billy Koch and Roberto Alomar. While I am eternally grateful to Koch for his performance in Game 5 last year, I still am furious with Roberto Alomar for his four-minute home run trot as a member of the Indians in 2001 in which he talked all the way around the bases while in a slow jog. Add in the fact that they are somehow considered the Good Guys and have consistently under-performed since 2000 while talking like World Champions, and I am more than able to hate them.
(SETH THOUGHTS- To be fair to Alomar, Adam Johnson was the pitcher that Alomar was talking to rounding the bases. For some reason Adam Johnson felt the need to trash talk the future Hall of Famer before and during the at bat, and Alomar deposited one on him. My perspective, Johnson deserved to be shown up there because he was (and based on how his career has gone since that season, still is) a moron!)
From Lee -
I honestly don't know why I don't like the Sox. I may be getting away from baseball now but it is probably the same reason prejudice is still prevalent. You don't know any better and all the other Twins fans you talk to don't like the Sox either. I am even a big fan of the Cubs, but the mention of the White Sox and I just get a uneasy feeling. I don't know who coined the expression but I've always referred to the Sox as the "Bad Guys". I only can explain it this way - I don't like the Sox.
From Anthony Fox-
Why We Hate the White Sox question:
The reason I hate the White Sox is simple - the White Sox are the antithesis of everything that is good, hard-working, Twins baseball. Frank Thomas is the Randy Moss of baseball but he hasn't even given the impression he's trying to change. They don't play defense. Until this year, they haven't pitched. They just try to put runs on the board. They play 1/3rd of a baseball game. They try to win by having that 1/3rd beat out everyone else's full. And one year they did it, barely, but since they haven't been able to do it. They haven't really developed their own pitching talent - they traded away their two best prospects for TODD RITCHIE. This year, they traded away some of their guys for Bartolo Colon, who has been anything but stellar. They picked up Robbie Alomar and Carl Everett, not caring that they are clubhouse cancers - and neither of whom really play defense.
That is anti-Twins We win by playing defense, pitching, and hitting in timely places. They win by trying to mash. They have a feeling of entitlement - we have a feeling of earning it. Basically, we're a blue-collar, tough team. They're a white collar, soft team. And we're going to outwork and out-heart them every year until they can figure out how to play with something resembling emotion.
(SETH’S THOUGHTS - I really like this analysis, Anthony. The White Sox and the Twins go about trying to win games in two very different ways. The Twins with pitching and defense, the White Sox with home runs. Twins announcers kept mentioning that the Twins “little ball” actually had outscored the White Sox. The one thing I do have to disagree with, or just question maybe, is that Carl Everett is a clubhouse cancer. In fact, he’s quite the opposite, known, by teammates, as being a great teammate, despite the media perception.)
Well, Michael, I guess there you have it. Why Twins fans hate the White Sox! I hope this helps you understand. As you can see, I try to keep the peace and point out some positives, or even the score, but it’s really hard for me to do.
Tuesday night, the Twins clinched the American League Central Division championship. We wondered what kind of lineup the Twins would go with last night against CC Sabathia. Would the Twins play their standard starting lineup for their final home regular season game, or would they give some of their every day players a day off? I figured what would happen is that Gardy would start the starters, get them a couple of at bats and get the reserves in the game. I was hoping that they may have even had them go out to their positions in the top of the 6th, and before the first pitch of the inning, Gardy would call time out, and take out the 8 starters and insert the reserves. That way, the starters could have received one more standing ovation from the fans.
But, there are some guys that just flat-out needed a day off! Shannon Stewart, Luis Rivas, Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman, and Doug Mientkiewicz have all had injuries that they have been playing every day with for more than a month. And AJ Pierzynski has been incredible, especially considering how many innings he has caught. He needed the day off!
So, big picture, I was very happy to see the Twins lineup last night. Here it was:
Lew Ford CF
Mike Ryan DH
Michael Cuddyer 3B
Matthew Lecroy C
Justin Morneau 1B
Dustan Mohr RF
Michael Restovich LF
Alex Prieto 2B
Denny Hocking SS
Ford was one of the heroes last night. He hit a solo home run off Sabathia to tie the game at 1 a piece. He hit an RBI triple to give the Twins a 2-1 lead. He also made a couple of nice defensive plays in the outfield. Michael Cuddyer had a great at bat against Rafael Betancourt, and after fouling off a number of pitches, Cuddyer drilled a solo home run deep over the center field fence. The homer proved to be the game winner. Eddie Guardado came in to pitch the 9th inning and recorded his 41st save. Congratulations to Alex Prieto who recorded his first major league hit.
So, this “B” team was still able to beat the Indians. This “B” team could be very competitive in the major leagues, at least in the AL Central division. OK, against the Indians and Tigers at least. Of course, getting 5 strong innings out of Kyle Lohse helps too!
And now, the Twins will finish off the season with four games in Detroit against the Tigers. It’ll be interesting to see how the Twins lineups look each game. Personally, I would like to see each regular position player play two games and sit two games.
Here is the matchup tonight:
Johan Santana (12-3, 3.17) vs. Nate Robertson (1-2, 6.21)
The Twins switched Santana and Eric Milton in the rotation so that Santana will be lineup up to pitch Game 1 of the playoffs. Brad Radke will get Game 2, and Kyle Lohse will start Game 3. Santana could come back to Game 4, and if it gets to a game 5, it could be Radke, Milton or Rogers.
Three Twins prospects were named to the USA Olympic Qualifying Tournament team yesteday. They are the Twins Big 3, Catcher Joe Mauer, SP JD Durbin and RP Jesse Crain.
Wednesday night appears to be a busy TV night for me! Last night was the finale of Big Brother 4 and it was the best finale yet on that show! Also, a 2-hour premiere episode of The Bachelor started last night! Bob Guiney, a former Michigan St. backup QB, who was a contestant on The Bachelorette, gets to be The Bachelor in this one! Should be fun! I watched the series premiere of The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H. as well last night. I think that’ll be a good show. Dennis Quaid is probably the star of the show (which doesn’t mean a whole lot, I guess), but it is another David E. Kelley show, so it should be great! Oh, the season premiere of Ed was also on last night. Great show!
A couple notes from Tuesday night’s shows. I really laughed a lot during 8 Simple Rules, but also the tributes to the late John Ritter were quite touching! I watched the premiere of I’m With Her too. That’s a great show! I’d love to have a brush with celebrity and this show is about a schoolteacher who has a chance encounter with a celebrity and they start to date. OK, that’s my other dream, right up there with getting a major league at bat!!! The season premiere of Frasier was also really good!
Tonight is a GREAT TV night! The season premiere of Friends! The final season! Is anyone out there as excited as I am about it!? But also the premieres of Will & Grace and ER will be on too! I’m also excited about seeing Coupling! It’s a more racy, British version of Friends that I’m sure NBC is hoping catches on and becomes the new Friends. We’ll see! Oh, and Survivor is on too! (Note - Scrubs premiere is next Thursday.)
Good thing I have two TVs in my living room, so I can watch these shows and keep tabs on the Twins games too!
If you have any thoughts on the Twins, the Discussion Questions or Television shows, e-mail me and I’ll answer anything!
Have a great Thursday!
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